North Macedonia: Social Democrats win narrow victory

The Social Democratic Union led by Zoran Zaev has narrowly won the parliamentary elections held in North Macedonia on 15 July. It obtained just under 36 percent of the vote; its main rival, the national conservative VRMO, secured 34.5 percent. Zaev had resigned as prime minister in January after the European Council once again postponed accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

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Népszava (HU) /

The lesser evil

The pain that Zoran Zaev inflicted on the country matters less to voters than other issues, Népszava writes:

“Zaev has put all his eggs in one basket by resolving the dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the name of the country. ... He has achieved NATO membership, but the chances of EU membership have dwindled. ... But nonetheless, Zaev has won the election. For many Macedonians it was painful to have the word 'North' added to the official name of their country. ... But the election results show that many see this as a smaller sin than the dismantling of the rule of law and the violation of basic human rights, in other words what [Zaev's predecessor] Gruevski, who is currently enjoying the hospitality of Budapest, did to the country during his ten years in power.”

Delo (SI) /

EU accession a promise that will be hard to keep

Zoran Zaev's main problem will be foreign policy, Delo writes:

“Bulgarian cultural imperialism will be the hardest nut to crack for Zaev, as Sofia stubbornly denies that Macedonian is a language. In Skopje there are justified fears that Sofia will use its veto in the EU negotiations, as Athens did in the past. The comprehensive agreement between Belgrade and Priština could also reshuffle the cards if it establishes new borderlines. This has not yet been ruled out. ... A solution is not possible without Washington's approval, and Moscow and Beijing could also block it in the UN Security Council. The US is not averse to the idea of an exchange of territory. Russia won't give up its influence in Serbia and the Balkans easily. And the Albanians in North Macedonia haven't spoken their last word yet either.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Offer worthwhile perspectives

The Süddeutsche Zeitung hopes that the EU will use the momentum:

“For some European foreign policy-makers the Balkans are relevant as long as the countries there stop refugees from moving further into Europe and provide workers for nursing homes and slaughterhouses. This indifference is harmful and undignified. The young people who are demonstrating in the Serbian capital of Belgrade against the repression of their government are looking to Brussels for help. The same goes for those who are rebelling against corruption in Sofia. There it is now becoming clear how wrong it was to admit countries to the EU prematurely without building a constitutional state worthy of the name. But it is just as wrong not to offer the countries of the Western Balkans, where people have pinned their hopes on Europe, any prospects - and thus no incentives for the rule of law.”